NDN Blog


Mr President, Pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins

I wrote yesterday that this new offensive by the Administration to set a timetable for a timetable - and once again to focus on a military solution to the troubles in Iraq, and offer no viable political and diplomatic path forward - didn't pass the pre-election laugh test.  According to the NYTimes, it looks like the Iraqi Prime Minister agrees:

Iraq’s Leader Jabs at U.S. on Timetables and Militias

BAGHDAD, Oct. 25 — Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki put himself at odds on Wednesday with the American government that backs him, distancing himself from the American notion of a timetable for stabilizing Iraq and criticizing an American-backed raid on a Shiite militia enclave.

Speaking in Baghdad just hours before President Bush held a news conference in Washington, Mr. Maliki tailored his remarks to a domestic audience, reassuring the millions of Shiites who form his power base that he would not bend to pressure by the American government over how to conduct internal Iraqi affairs.

His comments stood in stark contrast to the message given Tuesday by the top two United States officials in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who said the timetable for political measures had been accepted by the Iraqi government.

“I want to stress that this is a government of the people’s will, and no one has the right to set a timetable for it,” Mr. Maliki said at a news conference broadcast on national television.

“This is an elected government, and only the people who elected the government have the right to make time limitations or amendments,” he said, stabbing the air with his hand.

The remarks pointed to a widening schism between the Shiite-led Iraqi government and the Americans who support it.

As the violence here increases and midterm elections in the United States approach, Mr. Maliki has come under pressure from the Bush administration to step up efforts to control the violence. But the very forces that elevated him to power and whose support he must retain — religious Shiite parties with their own militias — are complicit in the violence.

That tension was on display in his remarks on Wednesday. While acknowledging the problems presented by militias and death squads — groups of men with guns that American military officials say are some of the primary culprits in the new phase of bloodletting here — Mr. Maliki said pointedly that the main factor driving the violence was insurgents and militant fighters, largely Sunni, who have been killing Shiites for more than three years.

“Saddamists and terrorist groups are responsible for what is going on this country and the reactions,” he said, in a reference to retaliatory killing by Shiite militias that began after the February bombing of a shrine sacred to Shiites. “We should contain the reactions.”

Mr. Maliki’s stance differs sharply from views presented by American officials, who speak of Shiite death squads as an evil equal to that of the Sunni insurgents. But it fits snugly inside the circle of hardening Shiite sentiment that the American military, in keeping full control of security, has not given the Iraqi government full power to intervene when Sunni militias or insurgents carry out sectarian cleansing..."

The Perfect Choice for Deputy Secretary of State?

For those of you who have been following our Campaign to Get Condi to Come Clean, there is a potentially interesting development on the horizon.  Secretary Rice is expected to name a new Deputy Secretary of State (a position that requires Senate confirmation) soon to replace Robert Zoellick, who left to become US Trade Representative.  One of the leading candidates is her close advisor and current Counselor to the State Department Philip Zelikow. 

Zelikow is at the center of the controversy over the July 10th, 2001 meeting between then National Security Advisor Rice and CIA director George Tenet, in which Bob Woodward describes warnings that "al-Qaeda was going to attack American interests, possibly in the United States itself."  Somehow that meeting, described by Tenet in sworn testimony to the 9/11 Commission, was left out of the 9/11 Commission's final report.  Philip Zelikow was Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission and was there when Tenet testified about the July 10th meeting.

NDN is calling for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to reconvene and call back Secretary Rice and Zelikow to answer questions about these serious inconsistencies.  But short of that, a Zelikow confirmation hearing would provide another forum to get to the bottom of this question of national security and political cover-ups. 

Learn more about the candidates for Deputy Secretary of State in Steve Clemon's informative blog post here.

Voila! Using new web tools for democracy

Ever heard of the website opensecrets.org? How about MAPLight.org?

Aimed mostly at hackers and others of superior techie skill, Wired reports on how the web is mobilizing into the Web 2.0. The goal is simple: “grassroots participation, forging new connections, and empowering from the ground up. The ideal democratic process is participatory and the Web 2.0 phenomenon is about democratizing digital technology.”

At a time when we seem to think that everything is as good as it can get and technology has advanced about as far as it can go, it is still a field of constant innovation. Cell phones get smaller, computers get faster, and some envision an internet community that allows for transparency by tracing campaign dollars. Not only that, but Web 2.0 would be used to track other problems, and create better, faster solutions.

Echoing the passions of Kos, our technology can create “new ways to make government responsive to the public, and to magnify the individual power of each educated and informed voter.”

NDN minimum wage ads in National Journal

NDN's minimum wage campaign ads are featured in today's Ad Spotlight from the National Journal. Jane Roh writes:

Vote For A Pay Raise, Por Favor
NDN is continuing its Hispanic voter outreach effort this month by targeting two states with minimum wage increases on their ballots. Arizonans and Coloradans next month get to decide whether to give minimum wage earners a $1.60 and $1.70 raise, respectively; both measures also allow for annual revisions based on cost of living and inflation.

In the television spot running in both states, a woman whose husband has two jobs talks about the strain on her family. Her husband's rationale is that he is working overtime "for our kids," but "the sad irony is that, at the time he gets home, he doesn't even get the chance to see them awake."

The radio ad, set in a classroom, stars children telling their teacher about the various jobs their parents do. "My daddy works at the auto factory, teacher. And also at a toy factory," says little "Pedrito."

Congressional Democrats failed to get the first federal minimum wage increase in 10 years through before recess, and six states now have proposals on their ballots. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) surprised constituents in September when he signed a bill that would increase the minimum wage to $8 by 2008, making the state one of the most generous in the nation.

The Minimum Wage: Turning common knowledge on its head

Throw everything you thought you knew about raising the minimum wage out the window. Only benefits high school students working summer jobs? Not quite. Hurts small business? Nope. Results in more unemployment? Again, no.

Our friends at the Economic Policy Institute released a study today entitled, "Minimum wage trends: Understanding past and contemporary research." In the report, the "new economics of the minimum wage" is outlined, and it drastically alters how the minimum wage should be viewed. Some facts:

  • If the minimum wage were increased nationally to $7.25:
    o 14.9 million workers would receive a raise,
    o 80% of those affected are adults age 20 or over, and
    o 7.3 million children would see their parents income rise.
  • Families with affected workers rely on those workers for over half of their earnings.
  • 46% of all families with affected workers rely solely on the earnings from those workers.

Virtually all the general categories of dispute are addressed in this new research, including job growth, small business growth, and unemployment. In plain English, the report concludes, "The positive effects of the minimum wage are difficult to dispute. The minimum wage sets a floor for the value of work and lifts the living standards of low-wage workers." A common sense argument that's difficult to dispute.


New NPI Report shows Progressives Gaining in the Exurbs

Our New Politics Institute Director, Peter Leyden just sent this out. It's worth a good read, as it shows how progressives find new opportunities in Exurbia.


Can progressives win in the exurbs? Today NPI releases a new Fall 2006 edition of our groundbreaking exurban report that argues – yes, we can.

Writing immediately after the 2004 election, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote an influential op-ed called “Take A Ride To Exurbia,” arguing that Conservatives were victorious because they won exurban voters: “the Republicans achieved huge turnout gains in exurbs .... [they] permeated those communities, and spread their message.”

But today our new report from NPI Fellow Ruy Teixeira shows Brooks is out of date: conservative exurban strongholds are breaking down, and the exurbs are up for grabs for progressives.

The Report, The Next Frontier: A New Study of Exurbia, shows why progressives can prosper as the exurbs become more diverse and less wealthy. It provides convincing evidence from a raft of recent polls that exurbans are today open to progressive messages and ideas.

There are three ways to absorb the report. First, you can check out the Highlights Version that just gives the executive summary and selected passages that are particularly relevant this fall. This includes an entirely new analysis with regional breakdowns of critical states like Ohio and Missouri.

Then you can read the full 34-page report, that includes all that highlighted material as well as a comprehensive analysis of the changing urban, suburban and exurban landscape of the 20th century that provides the foundation for some of today’s biggest political battles.

You can also watch our recently released video of Ruy Teixeira presenting a slide show version of the report at an event in Washington DC.

If progressives can take back the exurbs, we can also take back America. This report shows us the way. And you can help by reading it, passing it along and promoting it.


The Catholic Church and Immigration

A visit to the website of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC), an affiliate of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, offers a fascinating look into official Church policy on immigration.  The introduction to their resources states: "Many proposals are currently pending in Congress and many more will likely be introduced that would allow certain undocumented persons to earn legal status in the United States."  This optimism belies their support for comprehensive immigration reform, but they are also taking steps to prepare for a post-reform America. 

CLINIC is providing advice and information in English and Spanish to documented and undocumented immigrants, as well as to non-profit groups and concerned Americans.  CLINIC advises that undocumented immigrants focus on proving "Identity, good moral character and physical presence or residency in the United States."  And there is information about how groups and individuals can become recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals to work on behalf of immigrants. 

CLINIC's work is a good reminder, as Simon talked about on C-SPAN this morning, that there is a diverse coalition that supports comprehensive immigration reform.  That is why NDN will continue to be a leader in the progressive, political effort to provide real solutions on immigration.   

ONE Campaign Stresses GOTV

ONE, the campaign to make poverty history, came out with a new TV spot yesterday:


To quote the ad, "Saving lives in the world's poorest countries, winning the fight against global AIDS and extreme poverty. There aren't two sides to these issues. There is only one--please vote." And somehow, I think there's only one party that's willing to take on these challenges...

12-18 months doesn't pass the laugh test

The new formulation offered by a "general on the ground" in Iraq yesterday, that Iraqi troops and police would be ready to assume responsibility for the country in 12-18 months, is not taken seriously even in the front page news account in the NYTimes today:

"In trying to build support for the American strategy in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said Tuesday that the Iraqi military could be expected to take over the primary responsibility for securing the country within 12 to 18 months.

But that laudable goal seems far removed from the violence-plagued streets of Iraq’s capital, where American forces have taken the lead in trying to protect the city and American soldiers substantially outnumber Iraqi ones.

Given the rise in sectarian killings, a Sunni-based insurgency that appears to be as potent as ever and an Iraqi security establishment that continues to have difficulties deploying sufficient numbers of motivated and proficient forces in Baghdad, General Casey’s target seems to be an increasingly heroic assumption."

Friends, since the President declared "Mission Accomplished," our time in Iraq has been longer than our entire engagement in WWII.  Under pressure to show that we have a plan to change the course, the President's team rolls out this laughable 12-18 months timetable, even though our Ambassador acknowledged in the press conference yesterday that they were still working on the plan itself and that it would not be ready by the end of the year. 

And once again the assumption to all this is that our problem there can be solved through force, and not diplomacy and politics.  This comical press conference - which had to cease at one point as the electricity went out - confirms that the Administration has lost its way in Iraq, and has no real idea what to do now. 

As the nation tries to understand what went wrong in Iraq, a great deal of attention must be given to the lack of a plan for the occupation.  Our troops have performed with great effectiveness.  It was the lack of any kind of plan for building civil society and helping secure the peace - as the Marshall Plan so effectively did in Post-War Europe - that has been our undoing.  But the scale of the mess of the occupation is only just coming to light, and yet another tragic story, again in the Times today, details how little the Iraqis have gotten from our "reconstruction," and documents the utterly irresponsible contracting bonanza that Iraq has become:

"Overhead costs have consumed more than half the budget of some reconstruction projects in Iraq, according to a government estimate released yesterday, leaving far less money than expected to provide the oil, water and electricity needed to improve the lives of Iraqis.

The report provided the first official estimate that, in some cases, more money was being spent on housing and feeding employees, completing paperwork and providing security than on actual construction.

Those overhead costs have ranged from under 20 percent to as much as 55 percent of the budgets, according to the report, by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. On similar projects in the United States, those costs generally run to a few percent.

The highest proportion of overhead was incurred in oil-facility contracts won by KBR Inc., the Halliburton subsidiary formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root, which has frequently been challenged by critics in Congress and elsewhere.

The actual costs for many projects could be even higher than the estimates, the report said, because the United States has not properly tracked how much such expenses have taken from the $18.4 billion of taxpayer-financed reconstruction approved by Congress two years ago.

The report said the prime reason was not the need to provide security, though those costs have clearly risen in the perilous environment, and are a burden that both contractors and American officials routinely blame for such increases.

Instead, the inspector general pointed to a simple bureaucratic flaw: the United States ordered the contractors and their equipment to Iraq and then let them sit idle for months at a time."

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